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October 07. 2013 9:02PM

Obamacare website: Complaints pour in

Computer glitches barred many New Hampshire consumers from signing up for health coverage under the federally run health care insurance exchange launched Oct. 1, the first day Americans were allowed to enroll in new health plans under the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

The Obama administration said Monday it is fixing software and capacity problems at the main website designed to enroll millions of Americans in new health plans, Reuters reported.

“Nobody can get in there,” said Richard Allen, a licensed insurance broker with Allen and Associates of Manchester.

“I’ve been trying to get on it since the minute it came out. I tried at 6 in the morning. I’ve tried at midnight ... I don’t know anybody who is not experiencing this problem,” Allen said. He said he received confirmation he was registered after trying for seven days.

“They’ve (federal government) only had three years to get it running. Why don’t they give Google ... or Amazon a call. All these companies who deal with millions of people a day, they could have given them a few clues,” Allen added.

New Hampshire citizens not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or most job-based health plans will be required to have health insurance coverage as of Jan. 1.

Residents buy coverage through the New Hampshire Health Insurance Marketplace, which is operated by the federal government. Citizens can review and enroll in plans online at www.healthcare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596.

But computer glitches barred many from accessing the network since it launched, state insurance officials confirmed.

Keith Nyhan, director of consumer services at the state Department of Insurance, said his office has received numerous complaints from people “having a very difficult time accessing the exchange” since Oct. 1.

“It’s been grievance and frustration that they have been unable to log on to the exchange,” Nyhan said.

Jennifer Patterson, legal counsel for the state insurance department, confirmed the office received many complaints, but said she also heard accounts of people who were able to register.

Patterson said the state has neither control nor knowledge of the problems, since the federal government is charged with building and operating the exchange for New Hampshire.

“We have no control over what’s happening,” Patterson said, noting the state Legislature last year passed a law barring the state from building and operating its own exchange.

She urged New Hampshire residents to be patient, noting the deadline to sign up for health insurance is Dec. 15.

“Our biggest message for them is they have plenty of time. They don’t need to enroll right now. If they enroll in coverage by Dec. 15, they will be covered by Jan. 1,” Patterson said.

The healthcare.gov website serves insurance exchanges in 36 states and received 8.6 million unique visitors last week, according to the federal government.

"Our top issue when it comes to the glitches has been the extraordinary number of people coming to check out plans and find out more about Obamacare. The number has obviously exceeded expectations,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a news briefing Monday.

"To make further improvements, we are doing several things at once, including adding server capacity and making software changes to make the system more efficient to handle higher volume," he said.

IT experts told Reuters last week they believed flaws in the system’s architecture, not traffic alone, contributed to the problems of the first week.

One expert told Reuters the site’s design triggered too many requests to the server simultaneously, which created a situation similar to when hackers attack a site.

Carney said a particular component of the system within the account registration function was not able to handle the high volume, causing problems for consumers at the registration process.

kmarchocki@unionleader.com


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